Alex Brandon, Associated Press
The Utah Hispanic Dance Alliance performs during the 57th Presidential Inaugural Parade along Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue on Monday.

WASHINGTON — The contagious joy and colorful costumes were viewed not only by the crowd that enjoyed the inaugural parade Monday, but also by President Barack Obama with a wave to the dancers.

The Utah Hispanic Dance Alliance, a group of Latin American folk dancers, were the first Hispanic group to represent Utah in a U.S. presidential inauguration.

"I do not see this as a coincidence that we have been invited to participate in one of the most important parades of the nation," said Jessica Salazar, director of the group. "It is the result of the dedication of the dancers who have shaped the group for over 13 years."

Even though its members come from different countries, they were united in purpose to represent Utah and show the diversity within the Hispanic culture.

Its director said every Latin America country was equally highlighted, demonstrating the diversity and cultural richness the Hispanic community has within its traditions.

"For me this is the crowning of my dream, (it) is an act that sealed my life forever because when I organized the dance group, it was with the purpose of spreading the culture and uniting Americans and Hispanics through dances and cultural representations," Salazar said through tears of joy.

"Although it was a long day, with a lot of security and long periods of standing, it is very satisfying to be able to participate in this great event; any sacrifice we made was worth it," said dance Martin Perez, who represented Bolivia.

For Evelyn Chavez, it was an experience she will never forget and that made her feel proud of her roots.

"It was great to see how people admire our costumes and recognize the richness of our culture," said the dancer, originally from Peru.

Cesar Escobar emphasized that he was happy to share with the world his culture and proud to carry a message of unity and diversity through the dances and costumes.

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